Building the Fundamentals for Learning Applied Theory

This lesson sets up a practice schedule for learning fundamentals of guitar playing and theory so that you can greatly improve your ability to improvise over tunes. The lesson does not focus on scales in the aspect of improvisation.

Ultimate Guitar
Several guitarist, and especially self-taught guitarists develop a deep passion for scales. We learn to play them up and down, left and right, and can transpose them up and down, but in the process we've lost the connection with the chords which lays the foundation for us to shred, as well as the connection to the individual notes that makes a solo really stand out.

Therefore I've decided to make an exercise schedule to improve my improvisation skills through applied theory. The goal of the exercise is to learn theoretical elements that directly effects your ability to improvise over different chord progressions. The exercise is set to last for 20 days, with about 30 min practice each day.

Although the exercise might be a little tedious, it will greatly improve your improvisation skill. The exercises are focused on the basics which are extremely important to know, but many guitar players tend to neglect.

Within musical theory, there is tons of things to learn, so for this exercise schedule, I've chosen to focus on things that will directly affect improvisation, and not focused on aspects of musical theory which improves composition. However, I do believe that this gives a severe fundament to further develop your own musical theory understanding.

Day 1 – 10: Learn the placement of each note! As a resource I recommend using: to generate random notes.
The exercise is rather simple. You see what note you’re supposed to play, and you have to play that note, both below the 12th fret, and above the 12th fret. Try differentiation between playing the lowest note first, and the highest note first.

Day 1: Only focus on the low E string

Day 2: Only focus on the A string

Day 3: Only focus on the D string

Day 4: Only focus on the G string

Day 5: Only focus on the B string

Day 6: Only focus on the high E string

Day 7: Play the note in two octaves on each if the three lowest strings

Day 8: Play the note in two octaves on each of the highest three strings

Day 9: Play the note on all appearances between the 0th and the 6th fret on all strings. The reason you should limit it to only half an octave, is to reduce the dependability of the previous string.

Day 10: Play the note on all appearances between the 6th and the 12th fret.

Day 11 – 14 Learn the notes of major and minor chords. As a resource I recommend using: The goal here, is to learn what notes are part of the basic chords. Although, learning the entire scale for each chord is an extremely helpful tool, I’ve decided to not include it in this exercise schedule, as it adds a rather big layer of complexity.

Day 11: Look at the chord displayed on the screen, and say out loud what notes are a part of the chord. If you don’t know, try using your guitar to find out.

Day 12: Same as the day before. If you are able to, say them out loud without looking at your guitar

Day 13: Same as the day before. If you are able to, say them out loud without looking at your guitar

Day 14: Same as the day before. If you are able to, say them out loud without looking at your guitar

Day 15 – 18 Say and play. Do the same exercise as the days before, but in addition, play the notes on all strings of your guitar after you’ve said them out loud.

Day 15: Say and play

Day 16: Say and play

Day 17: Say and play

Day 18: Say and play

Day 19 - 20: Play along with a backing track. As a resource, use youtube to find some great backingtracks. Finally it's time to use what you've learned. Play along with any backing track, but restrict yourself to only playing one notes that are part of the underlying chord.

Day 19: Play along with backing track

Day 20: Play along with backing track

Day 20+: set up your own schedule for what you want to learn. I recommend doing the same exercises as day 15 – 20 for chords with Maj7, 7, m7 and dim7. (recommended resource for this)

Now that you know where the notes are placed on the fretboard, and are able to utilize them, it will be much more rewarding to learn other theoretical aspects of music, as you will be able to apply them much more easily into your guitar playing.

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